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Disputes and Diets

In 1519 Luther caused an immense sensation by roundly declaring that the supremacy of the pope was unknown in the Scriptures, that it had grown up only in the previous 400 years, and that Councils had erred in giving their support to it. The die was not cast. Martin Luther saw the full implications of his position. He freed himself for ever from the authority of the popes, Fathers and Councils and from then on took the Word of God as the only rule of faith. He stood before the world as a free Christian man. Martin Luther seemed now to have the strength of a hundred men, and poured forth a constant stream of sermons and pamphlets through the printing press.

In 1520 came the pope's decree excommunicating Luther and ordering his works to be burnt. The Reformer gave an appropriate reply. Having arranged a bonfire outside Wittenberg, he went and publicly flung the decree into the fire. No gesture could have given a more emphatic message of defiance.

In 1521 the emperor, Charles V, called the imposing Diet of Worms (a council), to which princes, dukes and other grandees were invited. His principal aim was to put Luther down. The Reformer's friends urged him not to go. His reply has never been forgotten: 'Though there were as many devils in Worms as tiles on its roof, I would go.' The council, presided over by the emperor in person, was hostile. Luther was roughly questioned about his books and ordered to retract. He declared that he would retract nothing unless it were proved to be contrary to Scripture. His noble declaration: 'Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen' has thrilled Christians through the centuries.

Luther was condemned and placed under the ban of the Empire. To save his life, s troop of horsemen were secretly sent to arrest him on the way home. He was carried off to a castle and his enemies thought he had perished. In his confinement of nearly a year, he translated the New Testament from the original Greek into German - a work of supreme importance for the Reformation.


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